Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:1-6:1
vss 1-5 “It ain’t easy…”
“Suffering is not a punishment,” Robert Ingersoll wrote, “it is a result.” Suffering, we learn as we go, is the price we pay to bring life to fullness, both for others and for ourselves. It is not to be desired in a neurotic kind of way, but it is definitely not to be denied. For when we refuse to suffer, we refuse to grow. Suffering requires us to stretch our souls to the boundaries of personal growth. It brings to the surface in us both strengths and weaknesses we could never, in any other way, know we have. It is not about surrendering ourselves to pain left devoid of meaning. It is about finding meaning in the center of the self whatever the stresses around us.
Who does not know that growth is a painful thing? It overspreads and sucks out the heart of us. It twists us from one amorphous spiritual mass to another. It shapes and reshapes us until, at last, we come to full stature, to total development. It tugs us from small to larger, from broad to deep. Most of all, perhaps, growth wizens us. What we grow through, we come out of with a different, a better, a clearer perspective. We come to understand that every phase of life is to be won by dint of hard labor and great risk. Suffering is not nothing in the living of life. It takes us to the rink of the self and makes us walk back, wiser and more certain of both our priorities and our principles. ~~Joan Chittister
vss 7 “For we live by believing not seeing…”
vss 9-10 “So whether we are here in this body or away from this body our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.”
“…the point of the Spirit is to enable those who follow Jesus to take into all the world the news that he is Lord, that he has won the victory over the forces of evil, that a new world has opened up, and that we are to help make it happen.” ~~N.T. Wright
vss 14-15 “Since we believe Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ…”
“The deepest desire of our hearts is for union with God. From the first moment of our existence our most powerful yearning is to fulfill the original purpose of our lives—‘to see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, follow Him more nearly.’ We are made for God, and nothing else will satisfy.” ~~Brennan Manning
vss 21 “God made Christ, who never sinned to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
“Therefore, that joining together of Head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts—in short, that mystical union—are accorded by us the highest degree of importance, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body—in short, because he deigns to make us one with him.” ~~John Calvin
vs 6:1 “As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it…”
I have many thoughts about this passage of Scripture; my heart and my mind continue to be gripped by it. In my mind, it seems to sum up the essence of the gospel…
Humans are broken in their rebellion and far from God. God makes a way for their healing and redemption. Through the redemptive work of Christ, humans have a means to become reconciled and restored to right standing relationship with their Creator God. Humans become one with God and enter the continuing mission of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration with Him.
It boggles my mind that we are capable of living the life we see Jesus live in the Gospels. It boggles my mind that so many of us choose not to live it. “God saved us and called us to live a holy life.” (2 Timothy 1:9) “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you…” ~Jesus (John 20:21) And then, there are these words from Paul to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:2-14):
2 Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. 5 And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. 6 And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. 7 Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.
8 Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. 9 And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.
11 This is a trustworthy saying:
If we die with him,
we will also live with him.
12 If we endure hardship,
we will reign with him.
If we deny him,
he will deny us.
13 If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.
14 Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them
Consider the words of Paul as he describes the life of the follower of Christ; he equates the journey to that of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer as examples. Make this day an exercise in meditation upon these examples… What do you know about the life and training of a soldier; an athlete; what about the trials and dedication of the farmer?